The ship stares reproachfully at me from the corner of the office. I bought it to remind me of Seth Godin’s phrase,’ real artists ship’ about how to overcome ‘ the resistance’, the paralysis that forms in our brain stem when we feel threatened by risk. ‘The resistance’ was great at protecting our ancestors from sabre-toothed tigers, but is now less useful when we need to publish, present or promote something that others in our lives might have opinions about. Exposing ourselves to criticism, upsetting our bosses, potentially looking foolish is risky and stress-inducing, and we have all developed some idiosyncratic and repetitive mechanisms to keep us safe from these feelings.
So at the moment, as I look at my ship, I’m reminded of my mechanisms. ‘You’re not shipping. You’re proof reading, analysing, tweaking for no good reason. Making endless pots of loose leaf tea. Checking Strava/What’s App/Facebook. Diversionary tactics. Get on with on it.’
The principles of psychological flexibility teach us how we might change our mindset to get alongside difficult feelings , moods and emotions and then move forward by taking committed action according to what we value most. These messages help us sort the wheat from the chaff – what is really important to us over and above what we fear.
When we are faced with ‘the resistance’ it helps me to think, firstly, that it is normal and universal, part of the human condition and nothing extraordinary. Secondly, ‘the resistance’ can only really affect me if I allow it to. If self pity, blame or imagining catastrophe starts to take hold, it’s my choice as to whether I entertain them or not. And thirdly, what is really important to me? If I can stay in contact with my most important values when confronted with difficult situations, I might be able to translate those values into action. For example, if I can focus on valuing the challenge, the need to grow, learn and improve, that is likely to reset me to overcome less vital drivers and get the course in front of me written.
Godin phrases it beautifully and appeals to my runner’s sensibilities:
‘In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he’s tired. Everyone is. That’s not the point. The point is to run. Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?’
The fear will always be there. Now ship.